SRI LANKA: Government has not approved payment of legal fees for the appeal of Rizana Naffeek facing a death sentence in Saudi Arabia
(Hong Kong, July 9, 2007)
The Asian Human Rights Commission wrote to the Sri Lankan ambassador in Saudi Arabia requesting him to urge the Sri Lankan government to make payment for the filing of the appeal on behalf of Rizana Naffeek, the deadline for which is July 16, 2007.
Moon Jeong Ho, programme coordinator of the Urgent Appeals programme of the Asian Human Rights Commission stated, There is ground for concern as the deadline for filing the appeal is approaching. The Sri Lankan government has not made a decision to pay the legal costs, nor has it replied to others who have volunteered to help in this matter. Given the past experience of four other Sri Lankan who faced the without any legal assistance being given to them, there is good reason for worry.
The AHRC in its letter mentioned that in the Sri Lankan embassys Media Release it is stated that:
.the amount of the fees demanded by the Saudi Arabian legal firm as SAR 150,000 (US$ 40,000). While you have demanded an extension of the deadline for the filing of the appeal from the date of your embassy receiving all relevant documents for the appeal form the Saudi court, the legally due date for filing remains as July 16. Since there has not yet been an official confirmation of any extension, legally speaking the possibility of carrying out the execution, if the appeal is not filed on July 16, remains. As such a more cautious approach would be to request the legal firm, which is to handle this appeal, also to undertake the obtaining of papers and doing whatever is needed to get an extension through the courts. However, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Colombo has not yet clarified the matter regarding the payment of the legal fees of the firm by the government. There have been some media reports in Sri Lanka in which some ministers have stated that the government is still considering the matter. Even despite of the approaching deadline there has not been any attempt on the part of the Sri Lankan government to deal with this matter.
The letter further states that despite of communications to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to take steps to enable others who have volunteered to help with finances, no response has been received the ministry in Colombo.
We therefore urge your embassy to settle this matter with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and to let us know if you will request for financial assistance from other sources. I am giving you the assurance that, on receipt of confirmation of this matter, the AHRC will deposit the initial sum of SAR 50,000 in favour of the legal firm so that they can begin their work forthwith.